Dear NHL Referees,
Let me begin by saying that I am not the type of fan that usually blames the referees when my team loses. I am much more likely to blame the players, or a player in particular, for a poor result. However, when a fan witnesses officiating that is so egregious and impacts the outcomes of games in such a real way, there is nowhere else to turn.
I am referring specifically to the officiating in last night's game at Madison Square Garden, game 3 of the 1st round playoff series between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals, but more globally, I wish to discuss the way the entire fraternity of officials has treated Sean Avery since he has returned to playing in the NHL.
I have been following sports closely for close to 20 years and I know that sometimes it becomes hard to be totally objective and to separate the identity of the players involved when calling a game. Indeed, I have seen Michael Jordan get questionable foul calls and Greg Maddux get dubious strike calls because of their stature. And sure, I expected that when Sean Avery returned to the Rangers that his reputation would precede him and that he would therefore very rarely be given the benefit of the doubt. However, this treatment has escalated to such an absurd degree that it crosses the line and severely calls into question the judgment and professionalism of the referees involved.
Several weeks ago, in a game against the New Jersey Devils, Avery was beaten like a rag doll by Devils forward David Clarkson. Despite the fact that Clarkson was the only player to engage in a fight, as Avery was dragged twice to the ice, both players received penalties. Similarly, the goaltender interference penalty he was given last night was a total joke and there's no way any other player would have been penalized for similar actions. Furthermore, the Avery targeting has been working the other way as well: players on other teams routinely commit infractions on Avery (slashes, high sticks, etc.) that go "unnoticed." It's almost as if the NHL referees have put out the word to the players in the league: do whatever you want to Sean Avery because we're not going to call it.
As referees, your job is to police and manage the game, not to decide it. I implore you: for the remainder of this series and for the rest of the playoffs going forward, call the game as you see it. A penalty is a penalty and a non-call is a non-call, regardless of who the players involved are. This matchup features some of the best and most entertaining players in the NHL and we as fans deserve a series that will be decided by the men in blue and the men in red, not the ones in black and white.